Twice a year, the congregation where I serve does an event called “The Church Has Left The Building.” This coming Sunday is one of those days. We will meet for a shortened time of praise and worship, then leave to go tackle various service projects in our area.
Why do we do it on Sunday morning? Mainly because we know that most of our regular church attenders do not have scheduling conflicts. It’s been on their calendar for weeks, or years, to go to church on Sunday. If the event was scheduled on Saturday, practically speaking, it may interfere with sports or other family events. It’s also a great opportunity to get out and meet people who do not typically attend a church function on Sunday morning.
It’s funny, isn’t it? Thinking about “the Church Has Left The Building.” The first time I heard that phrase it caught me off guard. Isn’t that a paradox, like “jumbo shrimp” ? Growing up going to church every Sunday, “church” was a place, a building. We went to Sunday School and then to the service. But it was all at a location that was about 20 minutes from our home. And we said we were “going to church.”
But then, about 15 years ago, my pastor at the time introduced the congregation to “the building” — the four walls and the floor and the ceiling — and he called us, the people in the chairs, “the Church.” Me? “The Church?” God bless Pastor Barry Tucker at Valleyview Church for speaking into our lives and showing every one of us the way Jesus sees us! By 2011, in this day of “the emerging church” you have probably heard it repeated often: YOU are “the Church.”
The first reference in the Gospel to the word “church” is found in Matthew 16:18. Jesus says of Peter, you are “the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.” (The Message)
All through the book of Acts the gathering of believers is called “ekklesia” – which means an organized assembly of “called out ones.” You are called out… like Peter… to be that group of people so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to hold you back.
So, how do you feel? Are you full of energy? The Holy Spirit came along side those in the First Century and comes along side of us today to comfort us, to be with us, to give us what we need to get done what needs to be done. There is something extremely rewarding and exciting about serving isn’t there? The people in our congregation will be serving in very simple ways, nothing really exhausting. Some will be delivering cookies to firefighters and police. Some of the church will be ripping out hedges, painting, putting together lunch sacks for the homeless and handing out water bottles in the park. I believe, in all of these simple efforts, God is pleased with the church today! Simple. Yet, a blessing to both the receiver and the giver.
This Sunday, as we celebrate God we will celebrate the church… you! You are the hands and the feet of Jesus. You are the one who brings “good news.” You are preaching the Gospel, merely with your hands. We’ve been talking recently about who is a true disciple of Jesus. A disciple is someone who thinks likes Jesus, acts like Jesus… and today, we get to be like Jesus.
So, go… be the church… be Jesus. And the gates of hell will not able to stop you!